THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by KEN FOLLETT (1989)
In a time of civil war, famine and religious strife, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against this backdrop, lives entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. A sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age.
The Historical Context (The Anarchy or The 19-year Winter 1135-1154)
Empress Matilda (c. 7 February 1102 – 10 September 1167), also known as Matilda of England or Maude, was the daughter and heir of King Henry I of England. Matilda and her younger brother, William Adelin, were the only legitimate children of King Henry to survive to adulthood. The death of her brother in the White ship disaster in 1120 made Matilda the last heir from the paternal line of her grandfather William the Conqueror.
As a child, Matilda was betrothed to and later married Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, acquiring the title Empress. The couple had no known children. After being widowed for a few years, she was married to Geoffrey count of Anjou, with whom she had three sons, the eldest of whom became King Henry II of England.
Matilda was the first female ruler of the Kingdom of England. The length of her effective rule was brief, however — a few months in 1141. She was never crowned and failed to consolidate her rule (legally and politically). For this reason, she is normally excluded from lists of English monarchs, and her rival (and cousin) Stephen of Blois is listed as monarch for the period 1135-1154. Their rivalry for the throne led to years of unrest and civil war in England that have been called The Anarchy. She did secure her inheritance of the Duchy of Normandy — through the military feats of her husband, Geoffrey — and campaigned unstintingly for her oldest son's inheritance, living to see him ascend the throne of England in 1154.
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